PhD Researcher & Graduate Teaching Assisstant, The University of Sheffield

And - Science & Engineering Champion, GBR swimmer & chair of TASS' Athlete Advisory Group

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"Because you're a girl" should not stop you doing anything (except maybe from going into the boy's toilets).

Amber Keegan

What do you do?

As a PhD researcher, I am researching the formation pathway of bio-inspired nanosilica. If I can understand this, it will enable nanosilica to be made in an environmentally friendly way. Moreover, it will allow improved performance of nanosilca in existing applications eg. CO2 removal, and will also allow new applications eg. cancer drug delivery!

As a Science & Engingeering Champion I organize outreach activities with the public, but more often students aged 4-18. I also design and deliver workshops to encourage STEM involvement!

I also chair a board reviewing the TASS scheme (a scholarship for dual career athletes) to enable athletes who are also working or studying to succeed with both their sport and studies! (So this applies to students in non-STEM roles, but also plenty in STEM roles too, like myself!)

Why did you choose this field?

I am a Chemical Engineer by training. I was inspired to pursue this path because this allowed me to combine my passion for science and maths to work on solving problems that affect each and every one us in the world!

As a child I wanted to do anything and everything, but either science or helping people was normally involved (eg. chemist, biologist, physiotherapist, lawyer, superhero). But when I sat down and really tried to work out what it was about each of these roles that excited me I noticed some common themes – helping people, using science and logic, always learning, a varied daily role, solving problems… solving global problems!

Chemical Engineering allows me to become a real-life wonder woman – working on solutions that can literally help save the planets and lives, whilst getting to study content that I find super interesting!

I would also say that I was inspired to pursue my career path partly due to lack of role models. Around me most of my friends with similar interests were guys (in education especially) and I was always determined to prove that “girls could do it too!” My little sister is 10-years younger than me, and I have always wanted to make the world a little bit of a better place for her too!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Wow, so many things. I wish I had known that it was possible to simultaneously train (in swimming) whilst graduating with a first-class and three prizes from a Russel Group University with a degree in Chemical Engineering with Energy! But mostly, I wish younger me had realised how much of an impact she could have on the world every single day just by following her passions.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love that every day is a little different, and each brings its own challenges. I like knowing that my work really can make a difference in the world and that I work with inspiring people.

Best advice for next generation?

You can do it. Be respectful when you do so, but question everything! "Because you're a girl" should not stop you doing anything (except maybe from going into the boy's toilets).

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Don't be afraid to dream big.”

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